Although she retired, Peggy Pugh decided she wasn’t ready to stop working after all. At age 70, she and her husband are launching a new business, a travel agency and e-commerce store.
Like many small businesses started by minority entrepreneurs, the couple is working hard to find startup funds and capital.
On Saturday, September 9, Pugh joined other local Black small business owners at Flava Café in St. Paul to write personal letters to Minnesota’s congressional delegation.
Their goal was to shed light on the specific needs of minority-owned businesses and the obstacles they face. Eight in 10 Black-owned businesses fail in the first 18 months, often due to historical obstacles to funding.
“I need their know-how and their expertise,” Pugh said.
The letter-writing event was organized by Sheletta Brundidge, who will travel to Washington, D.C., to receive a national business award. The WCCO radio host is also the CEO of ShelettaMakesMeLaugh, a podcasting platform. She will be recognized as a finalist at the National Small Business Association’s Annual Advocate of the Year Award Luncheon on Sept. 13.
“I’m overwhelmed at this national honor, but I want the trip to mean something. I’m taking Minnesota’s Black business owners with me, not physically, but to use my political capital to carry their concerns,” Brundidge said.
While in the nation’s capitol to accept her award, Brundidge will meet with members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation, including Sen. Tina Smith and Rep. Angie Craig, Rep. Dean Phillips, and Rep. Ilhan Omar. She will take the handwritten letters from the Black entrepreneurs directly to them.
Brundidge invited DFL Senate Majority leader, Sen. Kari Dziedzic to take part in Saturday’s letter-writing event.
In her long career as a legislator, Sen. Dziedic has heard many requests and pitches from individuals, businesses, and nonprofits in search of support. She sat with the local business owners to listen to their letters and coach them on how to create successful pitches.
“These Black and Brown small business owners are working their butts off, doing a great job, but they could do so much better if they got a little help,” Sen. Dziedzic said.
“They could employ more people and keep that money in our community. They need access to technical assistance, start-up funds, advice on how to retain and train employees as they are building community,” she added.
As a small business owner herself, Brundidge is well-positioned to carry their concerns to Capitol Hill.
“Black entrepreneurs are skilled in running their businesses but that doesn’t mean they know how to tell their story to congressmen and congresswomen and senators,” Brundidge said. “Now’s the time to ask for greater and more strategic investments in Black businesses.”
Brundidge earned the national advocacy award for her initiatives on behalf of Minnesota’s Black small business owners. She conceived and sponsored the first Black Entrepreneurs Day at the Capitol, bringing 300 small business owners of color to St. Paul. They met with the Governor, cabinet-level officials, and state legislators from both parties to highlight their specific needs and the barriers to their success. Most recently, in August, Brundidge sponsored a digital billboard campaign to highlight Black women business owners in the Twin Cities during Black Business Month.